Fan Films@24 Panels: JOKER RISING

JOKER RISING is a fan-made, non-profit, feature film, produced by Smoking Alien. It shows a love and respect for the Batman universe, with a focus on its robust criminal underworld, and in particular, gives fans an Elseworlds-esque origin story for The Joker.

I had a quick chat with Alek Gearhart, the screenwriter and filmmaker of JOKER RISING. He’s an enthusiastic creator and spoke about this story with great passion. As this project’s origin story goes, after Alek Gearhart met Hisonni Johnson–the filmmaker of the fan-made web series GRAYSON: EARTH ONE–he was left with these motivating thoughts,

Yeah, that’s right, you can make whatever you want–maybe not any money off of it–but you can tell a great story in a universe that is already established. The Joker immediately popped into mind.

I’m a huge Batman mythology fan–and more a Batman-rogues fan, than a Batman-family fan. I find that The Joker doesn’t get deep character treatment because of the publisher’s active choice to leave his past a mystery. This results in Joker tending to hit one note for me: he’s an insane, clown makeup wearing, sociopath. Where’s the human component? What made him lose that humanity? Um… he is human, right? As far as origins go, and especially one that focuses on the “man before the clown”, it’s just rare to non-existent.


When asked, “Why the Joker?”, Gearhart had the following to say:

The Joker was chosen because, to me, he was always the most mysterious. There was always some sad story behind those eyes and that insanity. We wanted to elaborate on that. And besides, some of the comics, like “The Killing Joke”, he has never gotten a true back story. Also, because I have never seen a film that really portrayed a scenario of where he could have gotten his scars. And based on the scars, it wasn’t from somewhere pleasant.

It’s easy to see a bit of SCARFACE being channeled in this fan-film. Gearhart lists GOODFELLAS, TAXI DRIVER, CASINO, DRIVE, TREE OF LIFE, and SHAME as having influences on this project.

The film sort of works in two parts. One part crime drama, another part emotional drama. The last 30 minutes will have you at the edge of your seat. Many might even cry. […] We did one day of casting and found Dylan Hobbs (Joker) and Katie Young (Harley), and knew that we were on to something.

I’ve always thought DC Comics could carry an ongoing series based purely on Gotham’s underworld*. I was curious about the possibility of JOKER RISING leading to other features getting made by Smoking Alien, focusing instead on other Gothamite criminals. Although Gearhart states that they’ve already thought of another crime picture set in Gotham, it’s not likely to get made and that this is most likely going to remain a closed story. Gearhart concludes with the following,

Goals for this film: showcase what we can do on no budget; and the intensity of the drama and acting that is portrayed on screen; push genre and comic book films into artistic and award worthy cinema.

* This post was originally written on June 6th, 2013. Two years later, we have GOTHAM! HUZZAH!


Nuno XEI is a programmer and designer by day; artist and writer by night. Always entertained by his overtly energetic pug, Mogwai, and forever distracted by ideas and projects, it's a wonder anything productive actually gets done at all. Currently, the biggest project being worked on is a 272-page comic project called "Raven Nevermore" and an 88-page graphic novel called "Koroo, the Black Lion" for his small press, XEI.IO.

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